We reviewed The Party’s Just Beginning when it screened at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. As it is now screening at the Philadelphia Film Festival beginning tomorrow, we re-present that review as part of our coverage.
Liusaidh (Karen Gillian) is a young woman out of control, but not in the usual, early-20s party-girl way. Still unable to deal with a friend’s suicide a year previously, she spends most of her evenings trying to forget with the aide of alcohol, indiscriminate one-night stands and haranguing people with drunken, philosophical rants during karaoke. When all is done, she rounds off her nights by shoveling fried food into her mouth as she walks, or more often staggers, home.
Inspired by a statistic Gillian had read about the suicide rate in her home town of Inverness, Scotland, The Party’s Just Beginning gives us a woman drowning in a pool of depression, survivor’s guilt and narcissism. Dark but never bleak, the film is not only powerful but is a remarkably well-assured debut feature from actor and now writer/director Gillian.
The film gives some cursory examination of the events that led up to the death of her friend Alistair (Matthew Beard) via flashbacks and while it is not a necessarily unique situation that leads him to kill himself, it certainly doesn’t feel as if it is part of whatever larger mechanism is responsible for the city’s suicide epidemic.
Instead, it takes a look at the one’s who are left behind trying to pick the jagged shards of their shattered lives. Liusaidh moves through her life looking for anything to distract her from her pain, but at the same time, she refuses to let in anyone who could possibly help her. Perhaps she is afraid that the new person she lets into her life will also leave her in the future. Her anonymous sexual trysts, often in alleyways or bathrooms, almost always have her partners behind her, just so there is no chance of accidentally making eye contact with them. Even when she winds up spending several days in the company of a British tourist (a bearded Lee Pace), at the end of their time together they still haven’t given each other their names. The only connection she does manage to make is with an elderly gentleman who accidentally calls her home instead of the Help Line he was trying to reach.
Watching The Party’s Just Beginning, I couldn’t help but think of the 1955 film The Night Of The Hunter. While there is no real parallel between the two films in terms of plot or theme, they both share the fact that they are impressive first feature efforts featuring strong visual sense from their actor-turned-directors. Sadly, The Night Of The Hunter turned out to be the only film that Charles Laughton ever helmed. Hopefully, Gillan’s directorial career is not similarly stunted as it appears she has much more to offer from behind the camera.